How one NYC-based charter school is redefining special education, student learning & success.

In July, Great School Voices’ Iris Crawford spoke with (NCS) Neighborhood Charter Schools to understand how they redefine success and high achievement for their students. Executive Director Lindsay Malanga and Director of Special Populations Jennifer Manning shared more about NCS’s ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) program. Unlike most schools that fit special education programs into the school after the fact, NCS was built around the ASD program. The conversation explored definitions of neuro-divergent and neurotypical have changed over the year, what family support looks like and how they meet the needs of their students.

Our Guests

Lindsay Malanga. Executive Director, Neighborhood Charter Schools

Lindsay Malanga is the current Executive Director of Neighborhood Charter Schools. With over two decades of experience in education, she has worked in underserved communities across NYC as a classroom teacher, Dean of Students, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and School Principal. In 2011, Lindsay founded Harlem Prep, the first ever turnaround charter school of its kind in the country. She rose to take on the role of K-12 Superintendent at Democracy Prep Public Schools, overseeing the education of more than 5,000 students across four states. Additionally, she held the role of Managing Director of School Support for Explore Schools in Brooklyn from 2018-2021. Lindsay earned a Bachelors of Science degree from New York University in Early Childhood and Elementary Education in 2000 and a Masters in Education in School Leadership from Harvard University in 2004. Lindsay lives in Manhattan with her two children, Lily and Jake, who attend NYCDOE middle schools.

Jennifer Manning, Director of Special Populations, Neighborhood Charter Schools

Jennifer Manning is the Director of Special Populations at Neighborhood Charter Schools. She has worked with NCS since 2018 and helped to build out the special populations programming within the network. Jennifer has worked within education in NYC for the past ten years. She has held different positions from teaching in self-contained and integrated classrooms to network leadership. She has a deep passion for ensuring that all students have access to a world class education while also ensuring that their unique needs are being met everyday.   

“Academically speaking, most of our kids within our AC program are outperforming or neurotypical general education students across the board, which is something we’re proud of,” said Malanga. NCS helps students embrace their strengths and work on social skills that will help them thrive in the real world. Until recently, autism was split into two categories – autism and Aspergers. The latter is deemed more socially acceptable. “It’s essential that people stop trying to put neurodivergent or even neurotypical kids within a box and think of them as different learners. Everybody learns differently,” said Manning.

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